When no one witnesses a workplace injury and the injured employee files for workers’ comp, sometimes all you have to go on is the worker’s story. The situation can become more complicated when the worker delays reporting the injury.
Frank Karban said he was moving equipment at work on Feb. 24, 2007, when he bent down, made a twisting motion and “felt a pop” in the right side of his lower back.
Karban says he continued to work that day and didn’t report the injury to his supervisor until the next month.
His supervisor says Karban never told him about the incident.
Almost seven months later, Karban went to his employer’s environmental health and safety representative to report the injury.
Before he reported the injury at work, Karban saw his doctor who sent him for an MRI, which revealed lumbar spine abnormalities. His doctor and a specialist both recommended Karban stop working.
More than a year after the injury took place, Karban filed a claim seeking lifetime medical benefits for injuries resulting from the injury and temporary total disability. He claimed he’d never suffered a back injury before the workplace incident.
His doctor sent a note to the Workers’ Compensation Commission stating Karban had been to his office complaining that he hurt his back. However, that visit happened one month before Karban said the injury occurred at work.
Despite that information from the doctor, a deputy commissioner awarded Karban temporary total disability benefits for six months.
His former employer appealed, and the full commission reversed the deputy commissioner’s ruling, finding Karban failed to prove he suffered a compensable workplace injury and failed to provide adequate notice of the injury to his employer. The full commission also reversed the deputy commissioner’s finding that Karban was credible.
Karban appealed to a state court.
The court sided with the full commission: It didn’t find Karban to be credible. Specifically, the court noted several discrepancies in Karban’s testimony. Karban was unable to explain the medical records that showed he suffered an injury before his alleged workplace injury.
The credibility issue was enough to throw out Karban’s claim — in the end, he didn’t get workers’ comp benefits. Therefore, the court never ruled on whether he provided adequate notice of his injury to his employer.
Cite: Karban v. Universal Fiber Systems, Court of Appeals of VA, No. 2094-09-3, 7/13/10.
As this case shows, the longer a worker waits to report an injury, the more complicated a workers’ comp claim can become. What is your company’s policy on employees reporting injuries? How late is too late? Do you have specific procedures for when no one else witnesses a workplace injury? Let us know what you think in the Comments Box below.